A triumph of good taste

Oakwood Club has class

By Paula Johnson

Photo: The Scallops appetizer at The Oakwood Club

Picture an avuncular, well turned out gentleman with a refined manner. Accompanying him is a lady, smartly coiffed and attired in a casually understated manner. Everything about them exudes conservative tastefulness and tradition. If you picture them sitting down to dine at their favorite local establishment, it would be The Oakwood Club.

Club appeal
The fact that it’s a called a club evokes an air of exclusivity and tradition. Founded in 1962 and operated by the original owner’s son, this restaurant has been a Dayton fixture ever since. It’s unassumingly located in a strip of businesses along a busy Oakwood thoroughfare. The location seems almost a secret. I passed it several times before noticing it, very much in keeping with the restaurant’s understated appeal.
PIP (Palate In Progress) and I entered The Oakwood Club on a recent Friday night around 6:30 to dine with a friend. Reservations are accepted for parties of six or more, so we knew we’d be in for a bit of a wait. Greeting us was a gracious host and hostess duo who checked our coats and informed us that our wait would be about 45 minutes. I didn’t mind a whit.

Because the bar
Maybe the absolute best thing about The Oakwood Club is the bar. Bathed in soft glowing amber light, the bar spans the left hand length of the space. A line of hanging lanterns and jewel toned stained glass panels adorn the nicely appointed interior. Leather upholstered bar chairs and cozy booths make for invitingly comfortable seating in a space that oozes a warm conviviality. As we waited I observed that many of our fellow bar patrons seemed to be known, both by the bar staff and by fellow patrons. Those who weren’t regulars were there on dates or business meetings, waiting for a table to dine. (No food is served at the bar itself.) This is not a bar that’s trendy or has thumping music or loud TVs. The sound that surrounds you is the muted chatter of the bar’s prosperous clientele. This is a bar to unwind with a Manhattan before you seal the deal over dinner, or where you bring your date to show her you’ve got some class. It’s a bar that a single woman would feel perfectly at ease and welcome at. The Oakwood Club bar on a Friday evening is THE place to be if you fall into any one of these categories.
The hostess informed us our table was ready, and we eagerly followed her. We had only to travel a few steps however, as she seated us in a booth in the bar near to where we had previously perched. The booths in the bar area are slightly smaller, and we should have specified the dining room when we checked in. (PIP is on the large side, so folding his 6’5” frame into the allotted space of the bar booth was a bit of a trick.) But hunger trumped comfort, and we decided to stay instead of waiting for another table.

Classic cuisine
Our server arrived to inform us of the evening’s specials, one of which was a scallops appetizer. I immediately ordered it as we looked at the rest of the menu. The Oakwood Club features a host of supper club standards from escargot and oysters Rockefeller, to salmon, veal, prime rib and crab cakes. Appetizers range from $10.95-$11.95, and regular size entrees begin at $21.95 and go up to about $40 plus depending on market price. There is a selection of light entrees available, featuring smaller portions and one side dish instead of two.
I decided on The Ship To Shore Dinner ($42.95), a 6 oz. African Tristan Lobster Tail and a 6 oz. Filet Mignon. PIP was not interested in a full dinner, selecting instead the Oakwood Club Roquefort Steak Burger ($9.25), French onion soup and a caesar salad. There are a few other sandwiches available, and one that sounds particularly good: The Open Face Nob Hill which features lump crabmeat, bacon, tomato, melted swiss and thousand island dressing on pumpernickel ($13.95).
Three large scallops done Asian style with a teriyaki glaze on a bed of seaweed salad began our repast, along with PIP’s French onion soup. Nicely seared and sweet, I was pleased with my starter, as was PIP with his soup. Often French Onion is overly salty. This broth was just right with ample amounts of grilled gooey cheese and croutons to accompany it. However, the caesar salad was a bit of a let down—ice cold and the dressing not nearly assertive enough. Things looked up again with the arrival of our main courses.

Steaked out
The Oakwood Club is known for their steaks (but oddly doesn’t offer a rib eye—my favorite steak—on the menu.) The filet on my platter was done to specification and was pleasantly soft in texture. Plunging the sweet chunks of lobster into the drawn butter had me reflecting on how often lobster is overcooked, but not in this case. Care was also taken with the sides, something I was happy to see. The green beans with fresh tomatoes, the vegetable of the day, were crisp, tender and tasty. The crispy disk of hash browns had browned edges with a sweet tasting potato interior—not at all greasy.
This was a meal that was as straight ahead simple as it gets, without sauces or add-ons. Success hinges on the perfect preparation of each element. The Oakwood Club did a first rate job with everything. PIP was equally pleased with his burger, finding that the kitchen had prepared it exactly as promised. The juice of the burger mingling with the umami rich flavor of Roquefort led PIP to pronounce this one of his favorite burgers in Dayton.
Casually and tasteful surroundings, well executed classic supper club fare, and a bar for when you want to dress nice and feel like a grown up-it’s hard to ask for more. The Oakwood Club is what going out for that kind of evening is all about.

The Oakwood Club is located at 2414 Far Hills Ave. in Oakwood. For more information, please call 937.293.6973 or visit theoakwoodclub.com.
Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Paula Johnson
Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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